Weeping for Yassir

On Oct. 29, as Yassir Arafat was lifted onto a helicopter en route to a Paris hospital, observers were struck by the low turnout of well-wishers ? the Daily Telegraph found  ‘barely a hundred onlookers, mostly young men,’ and the Chicago Tribune observed that ‘the most conspicuous reaction to Arafat’s dramatic departure… was the virtual silence that greeted it.’

Perhaps ordinary Palestinians, after years of PA corruption and failed leadership, are somewhat indifferent to Arafat’s life-threatening illness.

By contrast, note the personal reaction of BBC’s West Bank correspondent Barbara Plett (pictured):

Foreign journalists seemed much more excited about Mr Arafat’s fate than anyone in Ramallah… [W]here were the people, I wondered, the mass demonstrations of solidarity, the frantic expressions of concern?

And then ? this:

when the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry… without warning.

[read or listen to report – 5:30 into the show]

Plett’s revelation of a emotional bond with Yassir Arafat is a clear acknowledgement of her partisan stand in the conflict. It’s an outburst that reminds one of Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza, who announced at a Hamas rally in May 2001: ‘Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.’

What does it say about BBC that they employ news reporters who are emotionally or ideologically attached to one side of the conflict?

Send comments to BBC’s Mideast ombudsman, Malcolm Balen: malcolm.balen@bbc.co.uk

[For more on the anti-Israel culture at BBC News, click here.]

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.



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